Authorities say that an altercation that started with a careless spit escalated into a fatal road-rage incident on Fowler Avenue last week.
Witnesses told Tampa police that the situation began when Gilbert Serna, the passenger in a truck driven by Jeffrey Hunter, expectorated from the open window of the vehicle. Apparently some quantity of Serna’s spit arrived directly into a black BMW coupe driven by Teddy Baltimore Smith, Jr., as he allegedly pursued the truck in an attempt at confronting Serna.
Smith was successful in his effort, say authorities, as he and Serna began an argument at Fowler and I-275. Initially limited to words, police say the argument gradually escalated as Smith first threw a sandal at Serna, the contents of a cup, and then told Serna that he would shoot him.
Authorities continued by describing the point at which the altercation took a deadly turn. They say Smith retrieved a small knife from within his own vehicle, turned, and, with one hand on the truck’s door frame, buried the knife’s blade into the 56-year-old Serna’s chest.
Police say Serna never left the truck’s seat throughout the confrontation and remained there as Smith fled. They say Hunter pursued Smith for a short distance before losing sight of his vehicle. Initially distracted by the pursuit, Hunter says he failed to notice Serna’s dire circumstances, as he was bleeding throughout the chase and, by the time Hunter lost Smith, he had ceased breathing.
First responders attempted CPR upon the unconscious Serna, but in vain. He was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Thanks to eyewitnesses and surveillance video, detectives tracked Smith down and arrested him the next day. The native Virgin Islander, who marks his 45th birthday in the Hillsborough County Prison today, was booked on a charge of second-degree murder. Smith, who lists his occupation as that of an electrician, is currently being held without bond.